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20 years that changed the internet and access to knowledge in 10 milestones

Each month, more than 280,000 people edit Wikipedia in the world. A figure that may be small if we compare it with the number of individuals that populate the planet, but enough to have made a reality what, without a doubt, would seem a utopia if it did not exist.

But there is fortunately for everyone and this January 15, 2021 is an anniversary: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, turns 20.

Thousands of people have made a reality for two decades what, without a doubt, would seem a utopia if it did not exist: Wikipedia

We do not want to miss the opportunity to join this celebration by reviewing the two decades of history of this enormous polyglot and collaborative repository of open knowledge through ten milestones achieved by the largest and most popular reference work on the internet and overall one of the twenty most popular websites on the planet.

The largest and most popular reference work

We said that Wikipedia is the largest and most popular reference work on the internet for sure because it is. This free encyclopedia, open to anyone for both consultation and editing, accumulates more than 50 million articles distributed in more than 300 languages.

To these numbers are added the more than 300,000 active users, the more than 80 million registered users, as well as its thirteenth position in the ranking of the most popular Alexa websites. It is the reference par excellence of knowledge in the network of networks.

It is a non-profit organization

Wikimedia Foundation logo

Despite its size, influence, popularity ... Wikipedia is not for profit. In 2003, the Wikimedia Foundation was created from Wikipedia and Nupedia, the project from which the free encyclopedia emerged.

This organization was created, to a large extent, after a controversial episode starring four Spanish Wikipedia editors. Given the possibility that the encyclopedia included advertising, among other reasons, they created the Universal Free Encyclopedia in Spanish, keeping a pulse for the risk of facebookization. "If our contributions were disinterested in favor of the globality of the internet, we did not want to accept that a for-profit company did business with them", remember on a thread Javier de la Cueva, one of the protagonists. The creators reconsidered and Wikipedia went from being managed by the Bomis company to working thanks to a foundation.

1 million articles in 5 years

It was in 2006 when the English Wikipedia, the first, reached around 1 million articles written. The article that put the marker in the seven digits was the one dedicated to the Jordanhill railway station, located in Scotland.

The German Wikipedia had 1 million entries in 2009, the French version in 2010 and the Dutch version in 2011. Wikipedia in Spanish did not reach the figure until 2013. At present, of the 300 editions of the free encyclopedia, seventeen exceed one million articles.

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The encyclopedia with the largest number of articles in history

For centuries and centuries, the encyclopedia with more articles was known as Yongle Dadian. It is an encyclopedia commissioned by the Chinese Emperor Yongle, of the Ming Dynasty, in 1403. A large-scale project in which two thousand scholars worked, dealing with all kinds of disciplines and fields.

The record, held for so long, was lost in 2007 to Wikipedia. That year the English version exceeded two million articles and therefore became the encyclopedia with the largest number of articles in history. On its tenth anniversary, the Wikipedia set had more than 17 million articles. In 2007, too, the free encyclopedia managed to reach five million registered users.

Blackout against the US bills SOPA and PIPA

Wikipedia protest

January 18, 2021 Wikipedia in English starred in a striking proposal to go out in protest by American bills Stop Online Piracy Act (SOUP) and Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PIPE).

This action consisted of a blockade imposed by the platform itself that began at 5 UTC on January 18, 2012 and ended at the same time the following day. During those 24 hours, access to Wikipedia content was prevented, instead showing a practically black screen that read "the internet must remain free". A way to exemplify what can happen with internet censorship. The laws, by the way, were postponed and Wikipedia darkened was visited by 162 million users.

Artificial intelligence and search engine food

It is estimated that Wikipedia lost 3 billion visits to Google's organic search in 2019. A very important decrease due, they assure from SimilarWeb, to zero click results. That is, when a user searches Google and finds a direct answer to the search without needing to enter a web page. In the case of the Mountain View search engine, through the fragments taken from Wikipedia and displayed directly on the results page.

Something similar happens with virtual assistants like Alexa, Siri or Google's own assistant. When we ask you something, especially when they have to do with general issues, the answer is not part of the content created by the responsible companies, but of the food provided to the artificial intelligences that are behind and that is usually Wikipedia.

Google is the company that donates the most to Wikipedia, 20 times more than Facebook, Microsoft and Apple, while Amazon does not give anything

The last great sample of the open and collaborative internet

Google was founded because its promoters, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, among many others, believed that search engines that were financed through advertising would suffer from fairness problems. They would have a bias towards advertisers and away from people. Later, that thought changed. Advertising became part of his project and of many others who idealized the internet.

Wikipedia, however, has achieved what for the rest has been impossible for one reason or another. It is the last great sample of that internet of yesteryear, open and collaborative, in which everything is sustained by the selfless work of many people and the economic contribution of so many others who believe that such a project is worthwhile. In 2011, the Wikimedia Foundation had a record of donations. In recent years, despite the fact that donations are still necessary and that will never change, his financial situation is stable.

Proven history, also skeptical proof

Library 488 690 1920

One of the biggest challenges Wikipedia has ever faced is its reputation. Unfortunately, For a long time the free encyclopedia was synonymous with unreliable information given its collaborative nature, although such claims were unfair. The inaccurate information used to be attributed, jokingly, to a query in Wikipedia.

However, as time went by, this project dedicated to free knowledge has proven to be reliable and, above all, transparent. His articles are alive, yes, they are editable, too, but all of that goes through the talk pages, in view of the whole world. The content, the sources or the lack of them are discussed, the convenience of including certain details or not ... And, in addition, a large number of sensitive articles are taken care of, which cannot be edited by any user, as well as all of them in general. , keeping at bay the bad intentions of those who want to harm the information that is provided. The articles are, in turn, a great opportunity to dive among the sources that accumulate and be skeptical, trying to go beyond the information supplied in search of confirmations.

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A reasonably healthy digital and public space

Despite the fact that in its beginnings part of those responsible with some responsibility of Wikipedia were accused of marking an editorial line, censoring and treating low-level editors badly, that happened and Wikipedia has shown that creating a huge community on the internet, open and public, can be possible from respect and healthy communication. Without the harmful content that unfortunately abounds in other digital public squares.

A great base against misinformation

The Wikipedia page that the encyclopedia itself has does not hide the accusations it has received over these two decades. It has been criticized for exhibiting systemic biases, being subject to manipulation, twists on controversial issues, mixing real information with other confusing information and falsehoods, or having gender biases, especially in English, given that the majority of its editors are men.

From all these accusations, the Wikipedian community has defended itself by increasing control measures, marking unreliable articles, warning others of the sensitivity of the subject and being more proactive in the face of misinformation attempts that they have experienced since the beginning of their history.

To this are added initiatives such as that of Wikimedia Spain, which has created a Wikimedia Laboratory for data verification and, again, transparency. As a great example of this, the list of hoaxes that appeared in Wikipedia that documents the hoaxes or attempts to deceive given on the platform. Care with the information provided, especially how more important it is, it is of such caliber that sites like YouTube or Facebook use Wikipedia articles to help its users detect fake news.

Happy anniversary Wikipedia!